In an article published at New York Times on April 25, 2009, Tobias Myer, head of Sotheby’s contemporary-art department, said, “If it’s blue chip, like a Richard Serra sculpture, then we have a list of people who want them.”
The results from the Shannons Auction on April 30 proves that despite all adversaries in art and antiques market, a right artwork by a right artist would still fetching a commanding price.
Lot 28 “A Spring Morning” by Dwight William Tryon was painted in 1890’s. Tryon’s spring is all about nuance and delicacy. The seemingly affable and tranquil nature is trembling in awe of its own inner strength and reverberating power. The unusual dimension of this particular lot, by expanding the horizon with strips of foreground, middle ground and sky, exemplifies the calming effect of nature at repose and possibly was inspired by his collaboration with Freer’s mansion decoration project when spaces left for paintings were pre-defined and quite often compositions became challenging when dimension factor was confounded with interior color schemes and other decorative objects around.
Lot 25 “September Sunlight” by Charles Warren Eaton was another blue chip. It has a provenance back to Macbeth Gallery, which was also active in promoting Tryon in the late 19th century. The numerous paintings of white pine forests of Connecticut, possibly painted near his summer haunt of Thompson, would be the first choice for any collector who is interested in Eaton and tonalism paintings. In my mind, Eaton’s white pine trees under sunset are evocative but not truly tonal. In this lot, unlike that of Tryon, the foreground is grouped into masses and lines, while the backdrop sky seems far away. The absence of middle ground prompts the eminent status of the tree trunks and enhances the abstraction of spaces in viewers’ mind. The orange golden color dimly illuminating the silhouette of trees not only conveys a spiritual quality but also makes the whole picture harmonious and tonally satisfying.
Interestingly, there are a few other paintings by Charles Warren Eaton dated back to the early of the 20th century when he spent more time in his annual trip to Belgium and Holland and began to focus on the picturesque region of Bruges, Belgium, and its nearby countryside. These near impressionistic paintings but neverthelss with more realistic vein didn’t attract too much attention. Two other lots in the same auction (lot 24 and 26), both of which were of the scene of Bruges, were sold at a fraction of the white pine tree painting. For commited collectors of Eaton, that was not bad news.